Morning Press: Election results, marijuana taxes, Benton complaint

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Will the sun shine for the final weekend of the Clark County Fair? Check the forecast here.

Atkins, Gardner advance in Clark County sheriff's race

photo Chuck Atkins, left, and Shane Gardner will be on the Nov. 4 ballot as candidates for Clark County sheriff.

After a months-long battle for sheriff, the likes of which Clark County voters hadn’t seen in decades, former Commander Chuck Atkins and community outreach Sgt. Shane Gardner emerged from Tuesday’s primary. They will face each other in November’s general election.

The two candidates bested retired sheriff’s Commander John Graser and former Detective Ed Owens. As of Tuesday evening, Atkins had received 41.48 percent of the vote to Gardner’s 31.98 percent, with overall voter turnout of 21.95 percent.

While most candidates gathered at the county’s Public Service Building, Atkins watched from a friend’s house as the returns were announced. He said by phone the primary was only the first step in advancing toward the sheriff’s office.

“I am very happy with the numbers,” he said. “They are kind of in the area I was hoping for.”

He said he would not change his message as he continues campaigning.

Gardner said he was humbled by the primary election’s outcome. He’s running as a nonpartisan candidate but was uncertain how that would play in the conservative county. Atkins is running as a Republican.

“I had no idea what the numbers would be,” Gardner said. “I am happy as can be to be able to continue getting the message out that the community is important.”

See the all of the election results here.

Sen. Benton complaint critical of Inslee

photoWashington Gov. Jay Inslee, a democrat, left, and Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver

State Sen. Don Benton says Gov. Jay Inslee's decision to not allow Washington State Patrol officers to escort state grain inspectors past picket lines and safely into United Grain Corp.'s Vancouver facility constitutes official misconduct.

"What I would like to see is state employees allowed to do their job, so we don't destroy a 50-year worldwide reputation as being the most reliable grain exporter in the world," said Benton, R-Vancouver.

The senator filed a misconduct complaint against Inslee with the Executive Ethics Commission last week.

A labor dispute between United Grain Corp. and International Longshore and Warehouse Union workers has continued for 17 months at the Port of Vancouver.

In June, the governor decided state troopers would no longer protect grain inspectors making their way through the picket lines. After the announcement, the state's Agriculture Department stopped sending grain inspectors to the facility. The state employees inspect and certify the grain before it is exported.

The governor wrote in a letter at the end of July that it became clear after eight months of police presence that "keeping WSP escorts in place was not leading to productive negotiations, as intended."

Read the full story here.

Feds decline to take over grain inspections at Vancouver port

photoILWU workers walk the picket line at the Port of Vancouver on March 1, 2013, at the start of the lockout by United Grain Corp.

(/The Columbian)

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Add the federal government to the growing list of agencies that are staying out, for now, of a thorny situation in which a lack of inspections has forced United Grain Corp. — operator of the largest grain elevator on the West Coast — to largely halt its export operations.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said this week it won't direct federal personnel to take over grain inspections at the Port of Vancouver because it believes the safety of its employees can't be ensured. The department "is continuing to review the matter," wrote Edward Avalos, the department's under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs.

Avalos' letter comes amid a 17-month-long labor conflict between United Grain and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. A casualty of the dispute are the grain inspections that had been provided by the state Department of Agriculture. State grain inspectors, citing threats from union pickets, have refused to enter a gate at the port since July 7.

Their refusal led United Grain to all but shutter its operations, prompting farmers and export groups to openly worry about being able to efficiently movie their agriculture products to overseas markets.

Avalos' letter, sent Monday in response to concerns raised by the American Farm Bureau Federation — which had urged the federal government to take over grain inspections — drew a response from United Grain. In a letter the company sent Tuesday to the Farm Bureau Federation, John Todd, vice president and operations manager for United Grain, wrote that Avalos' "excuses for denying inspection services" are as "credible as 'the dog ate my homework.' "

Read the full story here.

Taxes a problem with pot

photoMedical marijuana user Krae Williams, 71, walks out of Main Street Marijuana after buying weed from the shop July 28. Williams said that the high prices might keep him from going back.

(/The Columbian)

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A new tax snag that has hit marijuana stores could cause delays in new openings, higher product prices, and even closures of newly opened stores.

It looks like stores — and by default their customers — will end up paying a federal tax on the excise tax that already goes to the state, something that many were unaware of until recently.

"It's quite possible that this makes retail business untenable," said Brian Budz, one of the owners of New Vansterdam in Vancouver. "There just wouldn't be enough revenue. It could create a really big issue for smaller stores."

Main Street Marijuana manager Ramsey Hamide said the problem could mean his store will owe upwards of $80,000 in federal taxes for its first month of sales, which would be a heavy burden for him and other small retailers.

"This system is a lot more broken than people think it is," Hamide said. "I don't know that it's even viable at this point."

Last week, Florida's BiotrackTHC, the software company contracted by the Liquor Control Board to track marijuana sales, began adding the extra federal tax to its software system, which store owners said was a surprise.

Stores pay a 25 percent excise tax on marijuana when they purchase it from a grower and another 25 percent excise tax when they sell the product to a customer.

Read the full story here.

East county bridge pro, con committees in place

photoLinda Figg, president and CEO of FIGG Engineering Group, gives her pitch to build an east county bridge over the Columbia River at a presentation in late July at the Clark County Public Services Center in downtown Vancouver.

(/The Columbian)

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November’s advisory vote on whether Clark County should pursue a third bridge across the Columbia River has its pro and con committees in place, meeting Thursday’s deadline to do so.

The statements will appear in the general election voters’ pamphlet, which will hit mailboxes in October.

The committee writing the statement in favor of the advisory vote will consist of Commissioner David Madore, John Ley, a Republican precinct committee officer who recently lost a primary race for the 18th Legislative District Position 1, and Port of Vancouver Commissioner Jerry Oliver.

Writing a statement against the advisory vote will fall on the shoulders of Vancouver Councilman Jack Burkman, former Washougal Councilwoman Molly Coston and Paul Dennis, the executive director of the Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association.

With the committees formed — in the nick of time, given the short turnaround — now it’s time for them to craft their messages.

The county had roughly a day to appoint members to the committees as part of a whirlwind process that started July 29, when commissioners approved placing the nonbinding advisory vote on the ballot by a vote of 2-1.

County commissioners first addressed appointing members to the committees Wednesday afternoon at a board time meeting. Because of the short time frame, auditor Greg Kimsey appointed members to the opposing argument committee at the request of Madore.

Read the full story here.

Ex-Blazer lends his voice to wife's battle with MS

photoFormer Blazer Jerome Kersey does all he can to support his wife Teri and her battle with Relapse-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis, from acting as emcee for the charity golf tournament Caddies 4 Cure or encouraging her to speak about her condition to inspire others.

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LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. — Jerome Kersey, a key member of the early 1990's Finals runs for the Trail Blazers, scored 11,825 points in his 17-year NBA career.

Several years after his career ended, he's had one life-changing assist almost a decade in the making.

Kersey's wife, Teri, was first diagnosed with Relapse-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis, commonly known as MS 10 years ago.

Teri's grandmother had MS. All she could remember when she thought of it was the sight of her in a wheelchair.

"I overheard some friends talking about me, not in a mean way, but they said 'We were going to go for a walk' and I heard them say 'Well we can't do that. Teri can't go,'" she recalled. "And it kind of made me sad. I don't want to be the reason why someone can't do something or a reason why we can't go somewhere."

Teri has three kids, McKenzie, Brendan and Maddie. At the time she was diagnosed 10 years ago, working two jobs — as a personal trainer and dental assistant — she felt the diagnosis made her unable to train others.

"Physically I was in the best shape of my life, but mentally I thought 'They told me I have MS. I can't do this anymore,' " Teri said.

Read the full story here.